Al-Sudani: Iraq has retrieved 182 billion dinars in stolen funds
Iraq has retrieved more than 182 billion dinars in stolen assets amid crack down on a massive corruption scandal domestically known as the "theft of the century", Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-sudani announced in a press conference on Sunday.
"The government bodies managed to recover more than 182 billion dinars," he said, "investigation committees have been established to scrutinize the fiscal instruments disbursed by the tax agency."
"The investigation committee has identified the violations and the perpetrators. Certain bodies inside the tax agency, along with monitoring and government bodies, have provided facilities for the theft," the prime minister added.
"All those involved will be exposed as soon as the investigation is over," he continued.
"None of all those involved will be an exception. An investigation committee revealed that defendant Nour Zoheir has received 114 instruments valued at more than one trillion dinars."
"Sixty six instruments, valued at 982 billion dinars were disbursed to the Humpback Whale whose owner is Qasem Mohammad and acting-director Abdul-Mahdi Tawfiq," he said.
This latest scandal, revealed in October by a minister in the former government, has caused a political storm in corruption-plagued Iraq and is being dubbed domestically as "the theft of the century".
In the embezzlement, an amount of 3.7 trillion Iraqi dinars (almost $2.5 billion) was fraudulently paid to five companies by the General Commission of Taxes. The money was paid through 247 cheques between September 9, 2021, and August 11, 2022, from the commission's account at the state-run Rafidain Bank.
According to the findings of an internal investigation conducted by the ministry, the companies —at least three of them established last year— submitted fake documents for their claims.
Those funds were deposited by trading companies and individuals as a guarantee to pay taxes after finishing projects commissioned by the government or importing goods. The companies and individuals can later apply to withdraw what is left from their deposits after deducting the taxes.
Corruption has been rife in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Many politicians have been arrested or removed from office for the practice.
Iraq is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It ranked 157th out of 180 nations on Transparency International’s 2021 corruption index.